Climatic Change

, Volume 107, Issue 1–2, pp 129–146 | Cite as

Assessment of sea level rise impacts on human population and real property in the Florida Keys

  • Keqi Zhang
  • John Dittmar
  • Michael Ross
  • Chris Bergh


The potential impacts of sea level rise (SLR) on 95% of the land areas of the Florida Keys were estimated through analysis of a digital elevation model (DEM) derived from airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements in a geographic information system. The topographic detail of the LiDAR DEM allowed projections of land, population, and property inundation in 0.15 m increments across a broad range of SLR scenarios for the next century. The results showed that a 0.6 m SLR by 2100 would inundate about 70% of the total land surface, but smaller percentages of the population (17%) and real property (12%). A 1.5 m rise in sea level during the same period would inundate 91% of the land surface, 71% of the population and 68% of property in the study area. Comparison of inundation dynamics indicates that the Lower Florida Keys are more susceptible to SLR than the Upper Florida Keys. The inundation dynamics exhibit non-linear behavior and demonstrate tipping points in inundation processes beyond which the inundation of land, population, and property speeds up. Acceleration of SLR will amplify the non-linear inundation, causing tipping points to be reached sooner.


Monroe County Hypsometric Curve Inundation Process LiDAR Digital Elevation Model Airborne Light Detection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3001 Inc. (2008a) LiDAR Processing Report: Block 1. Slidell, Louisiana, p 33Google Scholar
  2. 3001 Inc. (2008b) Vertical Accuracy Report: Block 1. Slidell, Louisiana, p 81Google Scholar
  3. Bamber JL, Riva RE, Vermeersen BL, LeBrocq AM (2009) Reassessment of the potential sea-level rise from a collapse of the west antarctic ice sheet. Science 324:901–903CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Church JA, White NJ (2006) A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise. Geophys Res Lett 33:1–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davis JC (2002) Statistics and data analysis in geology. Wiley, Hoboken, p 56Google Scholar
  6. Douglas BC (2001) Sea level change in the era of the recording tide gauge. In: Douglas BC, Kearney MS, Leatherman SP (eds) Sea level rise: history and consequences. Academic, San Diego, pp 37–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gibson PJ, Boyer JN, Smith NP (2008) Nutrient mass flux between Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Estuaries Coasts 31:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Halley RB, Vacher HL, Shinn EA (1997) Geology and hydrogeology of the Florida Keys. In: Vacher HL, Quinn TM (eds) Geology and hydrology of carbonate islands. Developments in sedimentology 54. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  9. Hansen JE (2007) Scientific reticence and sea level rise. Environ Res Lett 2:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harrington DJ, Walton DT (2007) Climate change in coastal areas in Florida: sea level rise estimation and economic analysis to year 2008. Florida State University, Tallahassee, p 87Google Scholar
  11. He R, Weisberg RH (2002) Tides on the west Florida Shelf. J Phys Oceanogr 32:3455–3473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical basis—summary for policymakers. IPCC, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  13. Leatherman SP (1984) Coastal geomorphic responses to sea level rise in and around Galveston, Texas. In: Barth MC, Titus JG (eds) Greenhouse effect and sea level rise: a challenge for this generation. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, pp 151–178Google Scholar
  14. Meehl GA, Stocker TA, Collins WD, Friedlingstein P, Gaye AT, Gregory JM, Kitoh A, Knutti R, Murphy JM, Noda A, Raper SCB, Watterson IG, Weaver AJ, Zhao Z-C (2007) Global climate projections, climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Nature Conservancy (2009) Initial estimates of the ecological and economic consequences of sea level rise on the Florida Keys through the year 2100. Nature Conservancy, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  16. Nicholls RJ (2004) Coastal flooding and wetland loss in the 21st century: changes under the SRES climate and socio-economic scenarios. Glob Environ Change 14:69–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nicholls RJ, Leatherman SP, Dennis KC, Volonte CR (1995) Impacts and responses to sea-level rise: qualitative and quantitative assessments. J Coast Res 14:26–43 (special issue)Google Scholar
  18. Peters A, MacDonald H (2004) Unlocking the census with GIS. ESRI, Redlands, p 309Google Scholar
  19. Pfeffer WT, Harper JT, O’Neel S (2008) Kinematic constraints on glacier contributions to 21st century sea-level rise. Science 321:1340–1343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rahmstorf S (2007) A semi-empirical approach to projecting future sea-level rise. Science 315:368–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ross MS, O’Brien JJ, Flynn LJ (1992) Ecological site classification of the Florida Keys. Biotropica 24:488–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schneider SH, Chen RS (1980) Carbon dioxide warming and coastline flooding: physical factors and climatic impact. Annu Rev Energy 5:107–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sella GF, Stein S, Dixon TH, Craymer M, James TS, Mazzotti S, Dokka RK (2007) Observation of glacial isostatic adjustment in “stable” North America with GPS. Geophys Res Lett 34:L02306–L02307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Titus JG, Richman C (2001) Maps of lands vulnerable to sea level rise: modeled elevations along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Climate Res 18:205–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Titus JG, Wang J (2008) Maps of lands close to sea level along the middle Atlantic Coast of the United States: an elevation data set to use while waiting for LIDAR. In: Titus JG, Strange EM (eds) Background documents supporting climate change science program synthesis and assessment product 4.1: coastal elevations and sensitivity to sea level rise. Environmental Protection Agency, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  26. Vermeer M, Rahmstorf S (2009) Global sea level linked to global temperature. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:21527–21532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zhang K (2010) Analysis of non-linear inundation from sea-level rise using LIDAR data: a case study for South Florida. Clim Change. doi: 10.1007/s10584-010-9987-2 Google Scholar
  28. Zhang K, Douglas BC, Leatherman SP (2004) Global warming and long-term sandy beach erosion. Clim Change 64:41–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keqi Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Dittmar
    • 1
  • Michael Ross
    • 1
    • 3
  • Chris Bergh
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth and EnvironmentFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.International Hurricane Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  4. 4.The Nature Conservancy-Florida KeysSummerland KeyUSA

Personalised recommendations